You wouldn’t expect the parks in London to be anything but royal, now would you? The city’s eight Royal Parks are “owned by the Monarch in the right of the Crown,” but fortunately for us, the Queen is kind enough to share, so Londoners can enjoy the 5,000 acres of beautifully maintained historic parkland. By the numbers, 37 million visitors come to the Royal Parks each year, and there are around 135,000 trees, over 100,000 roses, 21 lakes, 34 tennis courts, and 16 football pitches. The parks offer myriad activities for visitors, but many Londoners love to simply gather with a picnic and pack a pint, as there are no rules against drinking in London’s parks. Some locals may take these resources for granted, but the abundance of open space is great for visitors who want to take a break from the tourist sights. Best of all, in a city known for its expensive cost of living, exploring the city's majestic parks is absolutely free.
The Regents Park
During the summer, Regent’s Park’s outdoor theatre is some of the best in London, and taking a chance on the weather is part of the fun. Many a Londoner has sat bravely under waterproofs, not to mention the impressive skill of actors exposed to the elements. The park’s rose garden is also a must-see, as is the London Zoo.
Once a hunting ground for King Henry VIII, Hyde Park now boasts eight million visitors a year. The park’s new playground, which opened in June 2014, is perfect for children who need to let off steam, and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain provides a tranquil locale for quiet contemplation. Other recommended activities include boating on the Serpentine and visiting the art gallery’s revolving exhibitions.
Traveling on the Northern line to Hampstead is a must-do for first-time visitors to London. After a stroll around Hampstead Village shops, visit the vast green oasis of Hampstead Heath for a majestic view of the city. Then, stop by Kenwood House, a stately home housing an impressive array of art and outside a sculpture garden.
As both the largest of the Royal Parks and the largest enclosed space in London, Richmond Park offers visitors 2,500 acres to explore. Animal lovers will enjoy spying one of the park’s 650 free roaming deer, or stop by the park’s Way Gates and peek through for a stunning 10-mile view from the park all the way to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Just a short trip from nearby Notting Hill, the Holland Park Kyoto Garden, a Japanese garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto, offers a zen respite from London’s frenzied urban life. The park also hosts an outdoor opera festival during the summer and features two playgrounds for children.